This year is the centennial of the death of Edward Thomas, who was killed during the battle of Arras on the 9th April 1917. Prior to his military service, Edward Thomas was part of the Dymock Poets, and though he never resided in the village itself, he held a firm friendship with famous poet Robert Frost. In fact, ‘The Road Not Taken’, Frost’s most famous poem, is based on Thomas’ indecisiveness on their walks together.
The village of Dymock sits in The Forest of Dean area of Gloucestershire and rose to fame between 1911 and 1914 when it became the home of the literary group that inherited its name. The group’s members were Lascelles Abercrombie, Rupert Brooke, John Drinkwater, Robert Frost, Edward Thomas and Wilfrid Wilson Gibson, all of whom lived around or visited the village during that period and contributed to their own quarterly named New Numbers.
It was an advance copy of ‘The Road Not Taken’, a friendly satire of Thomas’ character that led to his enlisting in the military, though Frost had not meant it to have such an effect. After Edward Thomas’ death two years later, the community went their separate ways. The group, while thriving in Dymock and after their parting, found much inspiration in the landscape of the Forest of Dean, as it continued to influence their work.
While staying in a holiday cottage in the Forest of Dean, visiting Dymock and the surrounding areas that these literary giants once walked is a beautiful way to spend a day. Relax and take an afternoon to revel in a countryside that inspired some of the most famous poetry of its time.
“The Sun Used to Shine” by Edward Thomas
The sun used to shine while we two walked
Slowly together, paused and started
Again, and sometimes mused, sometimes talked
As either pleased, and cheerfully parted
Each night. We never disagreed
Which gate to rest on. The to be
And the late past we gave small heed.
We turned from men or poetry
To rumours of the war remote
Only till both stood disinclined
For aught but the yellow flavorous coat
Of an apple wasps had undermined;
Or a sentry of dark betonies,
The stateliest of small flowers on earth,
At the forest verge; or crocuses
Pale purple as if they had their birth
In sunless Hades fields. The war
Came back to mind with the moonrise
Which soldiers in the east afar
Beheld then. Nevertheless, our eyes
Could as well imagine the Crusades
Or Caesar’s battles. Everything
To faintness like those rumours fade—
Like the brook’s water glittering
Under the moonlight—like those walks
Now—like us two that took them, and
The fallen apples, all the talks
And silence—like memory’s sand
When the tide covers it late or soon,
And other men through other flowers
In those fields under the same moon
Go talking and have easy hours.
Image Credit: P J Photography (Shutterstock)